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Hollow victory: US ‘liberates’ Raqqa by destroying it

Campaign to free Raqqa from ISIS ends with total destruction of the city

Alexander Mercouris

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My colleague Adam Garrie has written a vivid description of the footage showing the destruction of the Syrian city of Raqqa, once capital of ISIS’s self-proclaimed ‘Caliphate’ and now reduced to an almost total ruin.  As Adam Garrie rightly says, Raqqa has not been liberated so much as totally destroyed.

This gives rise to many bitter thoughts.

Firstly, it is only last year that Western governments and the Western media were furiously denouncing the Russians for their supposed indiscriminate bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo, of which a section was at that time occupied by Jihadi fighters aligned with Al-Qaeda.

As I remember all too clearly, the Russians and the Syrian military were regularly accused of committing war crimes in Aleppo, with particular stress given to the supposedly deliberate killing of civilians in Aleppo and the bombing of hospitals the matter.

The question of Aleppo regularly came up in the UN Security Council, leading to angry exchanges and abuse of the Russians there, with the situation becoming so charged that President Putin even felt obliged to put off a visit to France when he was told that French President Hollande would refuse to speak to him.

Meanwhile those Western journalists such as Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett who actually travelled to Aleppo and reported that the situation there was completely different from the way it was  being described were subjected to relentless abuse (which still continues) by the Western media, even as the lurid and on occasion fantastic claims of Russian and Syrian government atrocities which poured out of the Jihadi controlled enclave were given instant credence.

The reality is that Aleppo after the fighting ended there in December emerged intact, and is now once more a populous and industrious city, with the great majority of its buildings still standing, most of its people still there (in fact they remained there throughout the four years of the Jihadi siege) and many of its people who fled coming home.

Though the task of reconstruction is enormous, there is at least a city still left to rebuild, as even the BBC is reporting.

The contrast with Raqqa could not be starker.  Not only is Raqqa all but completely destroyed (the UN says 80% of its buildings have been destroyed, with other eyewitness reports saying there is hardly a building left standing) but it has all happened in total silence, with no words of condemnation from Western governments or the Western media whilst it was happening or since then..

By way of example, David Gardner in the Financial Times has only this to say

…..after a five-month siege spearheaded by Syrian Kurdish fighters under the cover of US air strikes, the black flags have gone, the Isis reign of terror is over, but much of Raqqa lies in rubble

This apparently is a sufficient statement to describe the total obliteration of a whole city.

As for the Guardian – in Britain perhaps the most relentless critic of Russia’s operation in Aleppo last year – in an editorial welcoming ISIS’s defeat in Raqqa it has nothing to say about the city’s destruction at all.

Perhaps given the kind of organisation ISIS is there was no alternative way to defeat it in Raqqa other than to destroy the city.  That is the argument made for example by a commentary by CTV News

……the spectacular devastation of the depopulated city raised questions about the cost of victory against a fanatical opponent and laid bare the difficulties of rebuilding areas where the jihadis put up a ferocious defence, leaving scorched earth and traumatized societies in their wake.

From Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq to Kobani, Manbij and Raqqa in Syria, protracted military campaigns that eventually succeeded in flushing out the militants have left behind a trail of destruction so vast that they appeared to have been undertaken with little regard for the day after….

Still, whether there was another way to wrest control of the city from the extremists is debatable.

Perhaps so, but one wonders why in that case the same argument – or excuse – did not apply last year to Aleppo where the devastation was far less than in “Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq (and) Kobani, Manbij and Raqqa in Syria”.

In reality it is difficult to disagree with the assessment of Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defence Ministry’s spokesman, who spoke of the “liberation” of Raqqa in this way

Washington’s imagination is that IS controlled in Syria only Raqqa – a provincial city, where about 200,000 lived before the war, and by beginning of the coalition’s five-months operation to liberate it – not more than 45,000.  Compare: Deir ez-Zor with the vast suburbs by the Euphrates before the war had a population of more than 500,000, and it took the Syrian forces with support from the Russian Aerospace Force ten days to liberate all that territory.

The Syrian army’s rapid sweep through territory once held by ISIS, and its successful and rapid liberation with a minimum of destruction of formerly ISIS controlled towns like Palmyra, the ISIS controlled area of Deir Ezzor, and ISIS’s alternative ‘capital’ of Mayadin, does in fact make for a remarkable contrast.

Here it is important to reiterate a point which in all the various discussions about ISIS’s defeat in Raqqa gets almost completely forgotten.

This is that the US had no legal authority to bomb ISIS in Raqqa in the way it did.  Raqqa is a Syrian city in Syria, and its population are (or were) Syrians.  The US nonetheless bombed Raqqa to destruction in order to ‘liberate’ it from ISIS, even though it did so without the agreement of the Syrian government or of the UN Security Council.

By any objective assessment the US’s bombing of Raqqa violated international law, a fact all but confirmed by the convoluted arguments US lawyers have come up with in order to justify the US’s armed intervention in Syria (I discussed these arguments in detail right at the start of the US intervention in Syria and showed why these arguments are wrong in an article I wrote for Sputnik which can be found here).

During the furore last year over the bombing of Aleppo there was much wild talk of Russian officials being prosecuted for war crimes.  In reality Western governments have produced no evidence that the Russians committed any war crimes in Aleppo, a fact which a parliamentary report in Britain has admitted.

By contrast there is at least a prima facie case that the bombing of Raqqa – illegal, disproportionate and obviously indiscriminate as it clearly was – is indeed a war crime, though needless to say there is no possibility that any US official will be prosecuted for it.

The outstanding question about Raqqa, and the one which is the most difficult to answer, is why the city had to be destroyed in the way it was.

There are disagreements about the number of ISIS fighters in Raqqa but the highest total I have seen is that there were 6,000 before the battle began (other estimates are much lower; one I saw put the number as low 2,000).

This is significantly less than the total number of Jihadi fighters engaged in the ‘Great Battle of Aleppo’ last year, which at its peak may have been as high as 30,000.

Given the relatively small number of ISIS fighters in Raqqa, why did the siege take so long (four months) leaving the city so completely destroyed?

Possibly the Kurdish fighters the US used to fight ISIS in Raqqa were simply not up to the job.  There may not have been enough of them, and they may not have been adequately trained.  The YPG – the core of the ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ which ‘liberated’ Raqqa – is ultimately a locally raised militia rather than a trained army, and – like the Peshmerga in Iraq – it may not be the formidable force it is sometimes made out to be.

There are also reports that some elements of the Arab population of Raqqa were less than happy that their ‘liberators’ were Kurds, and that this made them less forthcoming with intelligence about ISIS positions than had been expected.  By contrast one of the reasons the Syrian army has been fighting ISIS so successfully in eastern Syria is because of the abundant intelligence it receives from local people.

Possibly the US was obliged to make up with air power for the failure of the Kurds on the ground, and their inability to obtain good intelligence about ISIS’s positions.

However judging from the history of US wars it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the reason Raqqa was so completed destroyed was because the US ultimately didn’t care whether it was destroyed or not.

This has been the recurring pattern of US war fighting ever since the Second World War: unconstrained bombing to achieve mostly ill-though-out political objectives heedless of the cost or the consequences for the local people.

The result is wars that seem to go on forever amidst terrible destructiveness, and which in the end almost invariably fail.

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s former President, at Russia’s Valdai Forum recently described this style of war-fighting and its terrible effect

But soon, we began to get troubles. Extremism arrived again, violence erupted again, terrorism arrived again. And the US did not pay attention to where it was coming from. It began bombing Afghan villages, it began killing Afghan people, it began putting Afghan people in prisons. And the more they did the more we had extremism.

Raqqa was destroyed because ultimately the US military knows no other way.

The result in Raqqa is there for all to see.  The US made a desert, and calls it peace.

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Hungary Prime Minister Attacks Juncker and Soros in Billboard Ad

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán attacked EC President Jean Claude Jucker and George Soros in a billboard ad.

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The EU has never seen anything quite like this. Orbán has a billboard campaign that claims European Commission president Juncker and and George Soros are “Endangering Hungary’s Safety”.

Opening a new front against Brussels a few months before European [parliament] elections, the poster shows the European commission president alongside the Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, a familiar target in Hungary.

“You have the right to know what Brussels is planning to do,” the poster says. On its official Facebook page, the Hungarian government says the poster is part of an information campaign to tell the public about Brussels’ migration plans, which it claims “fundamentally endangered Hungary’s safety”.

Although the government has previously run a “Stop Brussels” campaign, the decision to use an image of Junker is an escalation in the Orbán government’s public relations war with the EU’s most senior leaders.

It also exposes the rift in the centre-right European People’s party in the European parliament, which counts Juncker and Orbán, as members.

Orbán was re-elected for a third straight term last April, after a campaign dominated by immigration. A long-term critic of the EU, Orbán has accused NGOs and critical media of being part of a plot orchestrated by Soros to send millions of people to Hungary.

In recent weeks, Orbán has spoken of his hopes that the next European parliament will be dominated by anti-immigration parties.

Birds of a Feather Not

​Juncker once met Orbán with the jokey greeting “hello, dictator” and playfully tapped his face.

Today, Juncker responded Orban Should Leave Europe’s Centre-Right.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party should leave the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament (EP).

“Against lies there’s not much you can do,” Juncker was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency, adding that he had called for Fidesz’s expulsion from the EPP.

​”They didn’t vote for me in the European Parliament,” he said in Stuttgart, Germany, in a speech. “The far right didn’t either. I remember Ms. Le Pen, she said: ‘I’m not voting for you.’ I said: ‘I don’t want your vote.’ There are certain votes you just don’t want,” Juncker said, referring to the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Eurointelligence Comments

Looking at Orbán’s previous record, and noting that one cannot of be sure, we continue doubt that Hungary’s Prime Minister has changed his European strategy and is now working to provoke the exclusion of his party from the EPP. Rather, Orbán seems to be doing one his classic hit-and-runs.

There is little doubt that the new smear campaign will make life on the campaign trail much more difficult for Manfred Weber, the CSU MEP and EPP spitzenkandidat. Juncker himself has now declared more forcefully than ever before that the EPP values are not consistent with keeping Fidesz in.

But we note that the CSU leadership in Munich has in the past consistently worked to maintain close and even warm ties with Orban.

Spitzenkandidat

US readers no doubt need an explanation of Spitzenkandidat. The following video explains.

In short, the term refers to an election process instead of an appointment process to determine the head of the European Commission.

63% of Europeans want the commission president determined by vote. Those in power still support the behind closed doors process for obvious reasons.

Orbán’s mission

Orbán’s mission is to weaken the EU from within. Italy has the same mission, for different reasons, as does President Trump.

EU Splintering

Two days ago I reported a Commerce Study Deems “European Cars a Threat to US National Security”. That’s nonsensical, of course. But Trump’s mission is easy to spot. He is doing his best to bust up the EU.

And now Trump has a lot of help on the inside: Marine Le Pen in France, Victor Orbán in Hungary, and Matteo Salvini in Italy.

I response to Trump, I noted, EU Pokes Trump Again, This Time Over Huawei’ s 5G Technology.

In the UK, Seven UK MPs Split from Labour Party Over Brexit. More MPs joined that parade today.

The splintering of the EU continues with escalating infighting at unprecedented levels.

It is illogical for the UK to want to part of this mess. Yet, the UK Remainers want to stay in.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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Is Venezuela On The Verge Of Becoming Another Syria?

It should not be considered a coincidence that the situation with Venezuela is being accelerated at the same time as tensions between the US , China and Russia are hitting a crescendo.

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Establishment elites have always had a predilection for regime change. Obviously, this strategy helps weed out nation states that might be uncooperative with their future plans for a fully centralized global economic and political order. We have also seen regime change occur when former puppet leaders go rogue and refuse to follow the script they have been given. Most of these men have acted as dictators and are not very empathetic public figures, so we rarely care when they get overthrown or murdered. That said, there are always wider implications to such events.

I believe the reasons for regime change and the destabilization of particular countries have evolved in recent years. In the past it was about bringing each countries under the new world order umbrella. Today, the goal seems to be an attempt to create points of global contention. That is to say, the elites want to draw much of the world into various forms of conflict, and they are using special regions of the globe as nexus points for these conflicts.

Syria was and still is one of those nexus points. The transmutation of Syria began as an extension of the Arab Spring. Western funded and organized coups in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt inspired even more extremism as well as a vast flow of black market military grade armaments. The CIA under the Obama Administration in particular took advantage of this chaos to fill training camps in Jordan with “moderate rebels”, the same rebels that would go on to launch ISIS and start a civil war in Syria.

While the billion dollar program to arm and supply Syrian rebel groups, many of which were closely tied to ISIS, was finally “officially ended” under the Trump administration in 2017, more covert US support continued for these groups as well support for Israeli incursions into sovereign Syrian air space.

Syria has had the potential to draw multiple nations into close and hostile proximity with each other, including the US, Russia, Israel and Iran. This was not a mistake, it was entirely deliberate.

I warned of the potential exploitation of Syria as a global point of contention for years before the actual insurgency took place because of the unique military alliances in the region. The only reason Syria has not yet been exploited to its full potential is because of the effective exposure of the conspiracy by the alternative media. The establishment push to use American troops to help ISIS extremists overthrow Bashar al-Assad presidency was thwarted. The mainstream media originally portrayed ISIS groups as courageous clean cut rebels fighting for freedom. This ended after the alternative media flooded the web with evidence of rebel led genocide and atrocities.

Had the American public and American troops been tricked into even deeper involvement in Syria as well as helping ISIS overthrow Assad, this could have potentially pushed us into direct confrontation with either Russia or Iran or both. We would be seen as the villains, supporting monsters as they commit war crimes in the name of an ideology many Americans despise.

Those unfamiliar with the concept of the False East/West Paradigm will probably be at a loss as to why the establishment would WANT to deliberately undermine America’s geopolitical or economic position. Once they understand that both China and Russia maintain close ties to the globalist framework, and that they represent false opposition to the “new world order”, the reality of the situation becomes more clear.

I recommend my article ‘In The New “Multipolar World” The Globalists Still Control All The Players’ for facts and evidence on this dynamic. The engineered destabilization of the US and parts of Europe and the rise of the East is intended to cause the removal of the current economic model of sovereign nations and currencies led by the US dollar as the world reserve. This would leave quite a void in the global economic structure, a void which the elites plan to fill with a new centralized one world currency system.

This system, to be managed by the IMF, has been openly supported by both the Chinese and Russian governments. The delusion that the East is somehow opposed to the NWO melts away when we examine their long time alliances to the banking cabal, as well as the IMF programs the East now champions. But how do the elites plan to get the masses to go along with such a historic and painful shift in global economic architecture?

In my view, the confrontations in regions of confluence like Syria are intended to lead to World War; not in the form of a nuclear war, but in the form of a full spectrum economic war and smaller regional wars. There is another nation beyond Syria that I have also been warning about for many years as a potential nexus, or what the elites might call a “linchpin”. That region is Venezuela.

In my article ‘How A Collapse In Venezuela Could Trigger Martial Law In the US’, published in May of 2016, I outlined how the socialist structure of Venezuela in particular was so unstable that the slightest push could cause the entire country to topple. Venezuela did indeed crash economically to the point that martial law is the only mainstay holding the system together.

I have also warned that a collapse in Venezuela could spread into surrounding countries, already weakened by fiscal uncertainty and debt. Such a collapse in South America rather strangely matches the scenario described in Operation Garden Plot and Rex 84, a secret Pentagon plan exposed during the Iran/Contra affair which would use mass migrations from South or Central America as a rationale to enforce martial law measures within the United States.

In recent months, however, the Trump Administration has added a new dimension to the problem. Expanding sanctions against Venezuela are adding fire to the flames of economic collapse. With an even more aggressive stance against Nicolas Madruro including possible military action, the prospect of a direct US led coup is now on the table.

One would think that if the US government wanted a breakdown in Venezuela, all they would have to do is sit back and wait as the socialist nation imploded under it’s own faulty economic policies. But apparently the country was not collapsing fast enough for the elites. My theory – the goal is to create another Syria, but this time much closer to US borders.

Venezuela has close ties to not only Russia, but also China. Venezuela’s military ties to Russia are well known. Their military is supplied to this day by Russia, and Russia has been very vocal in their opposition to any US military involvement in the region.

Both China and Russia continue to support Nicolas Madruro as the president of Venezuela in the face of opposition from assembly leader Juan Guaido. The US and a number of European nations support Guaido. The question is, how far will a confrontation in Venezuela go?

US involvement in South and Central America does not paint a pretty picture. Reagan era coups in countries like El Salvador in the name of stopping communism created not only civil war, but also the installation of more violent dictators and regimes (look up the White Hand death squads in El Salvador for the ugly details). Not coincidentally, we also saw the use of death squads and extremists in the destabilization of Syria.

I find it interesting that extreme leftists like Ilhan Omar are suddenly interested in exposing the underhanded nature of such tactics. They remain decidedly quiet on the same kind of subversion in Syria, and aggressively push for a continued American presence there. My suspicion is that this might be an establishment attempt to gain conservative support for a US led coup in Venezuela. Whatever their leftist puppets attack, we are supposed to defend, right?

But in this case, the Trump Administration is just as insidious as the leftists in its activities, and support for such a coup would be an affront to true conservative principles.

It should be noted that the arming and training of insurgents in Syria started out undercover. At the time it was labeled “humanitarian aid”. In Venezuela, the US is once again offering “aid” to the people of Venezuela and the opposition party, backed by a US military aircraft. The establishment is not generally very creative in their tactics; they simply use the same methods over and over again because historically they succeed more than they fail.

If this dynamic happens again in Venezuela, I predict immediate and aggressive economic response from Russia and China, including yet another excuse for China to dump its US Treasury Bond holdings and dollar reserves, effectively killing the dollar’s world reserve status. The US would be hit the hardest by this reset, and with the Trump Administration driven by globalist warmongers like John Bolton, there would be little sympathy from the rest of the world when the consequences land on our doorstep.

It should not be considered a coincidence that the situation with Venezuela is being accelerated at the same time as tensions between the US , China and Russia are hitting a crescendo. Add yet another regional conflict similar to Syria on top of the trade war, and the potential for a financial “World War III” is high. If allowed to play out uninterrupted, such an event provides even more cover for the “global reset” and the shift to a one world economic model.  Not only this, but a collapse epidemic in South America could lead to vast migrant caravans swarming to the southern US border far beyond what we have already seen.  As Operation Garden Plot outlines, this would inevitably be used as a rationale for martial law measures.

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Why Autocrats Are Replacing Democrats

High among the reasons Trump was elected was that, for all his flaws and failings, he was seen as a doer, a man who “gets things done.”

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


“If you look at Trump in America or Bolsonaro in Brazil, you see that people now want politicians who are tough enough to do what they promise,” said Spanish businessman Juan Carlos Perez Carreno.

The Spaniard was explaining to The New York Times what lay behind the rise of Vox, which the Times calls “Spain’s first far-right party since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.”

Indeed, the growing impatience of peoples with elected leaders and legislators who cannot or will not act decisively explains two realities of our time: the eclipse of Congress and the rise of autocracy worldwide.

In condemning President Donald Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency and use Pentagon funds to build his wall, Beltway elites have charged the president with a multitude of sins against the Constitution.

He has usurped the “power of the purse” that the Founding Fathers invested in Congress. He has disregarded the “checks and balances” of Madisonian democracy. He is acting like an imperial president.

Yet the decline of Congress is not a recent phenomenon. And the principal collaborator in its fall from grace, from being “the first branch of government” to the least esteemed, has been Congress itself, its own timidity and cowardice.

Contrast, if you will, the now-inveterate torpor and inaction of Congress with how presidents, declared by historians to be great or near great, have acted.

Thomas Jefferson seized upon Napoleon’s sudden offer to sell the vast Louisiana territory for $15 million in an act of dubious constitutionality by Jefferson’s own judgment. History has validated his decision.

Andrew Jackson — “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” — shoved aside a Supreme Court ruling denying him the right to transfer the Indians of Florida to the middle of the country.

Abraham Lincoln arrested Maryland legislators to prevent a secessionist-minded legislature from meeting, violated the habeas corpus rights of thousands, ordered Chief Justice Roger Taney arrested, shut down newspapers, and, in January 1863, declared free all the slaves of every state still in rebellion against the Union.

“I took Panama!” said Theodore Roosevelt, whose agents helped rebels shear off the province from Colombia to build his canal.

FDR ordered some 110,000 Japanese, 75,000 of them U.S. citizens, into detention camps in 1942 for the duration of the war.

Without authorization from Congress, Harry Truman ordered U.S. troops into South Korea in 1950 to resist the invasion by North Korea, calling it a police action.

Though a Republican House voted against attacking Serbia in 1998, Bill Clinton continued his 78-day bombing campaign until Belgrade yielded up its cradle province of Kosovo.

Yet while presidents have acted decisively, without congressional authorization and sometimes unconstitutionally, Congress has failed to defend, and even surrendered, its legitimate constitutional powers.

Congress’s authority “to regulate commerce with foreign nations” has been largely ceded to the executive branch, with Congress agreeing to confine itself to a “yeah” or “nay” vote on whatever trade treaty the White House negotiates and sends to the Hill.

Congress’s authority to “coin money” and “regulate the value thereof” was long ago transferred to the Federal Reserve.

Congress’s power to declare war has been ignored by presidents since Truman. Authorizations for the use of military force have replaced declarations of war, with presidents deciding how broadly they may be interpreted.

In declaring the national emergency Friday, Trump rested his case on authority given the president by Congress in the National Emergencies Act of 1976.

The Supreme Court has usurped Congress’ powers with impunity.

While the civil rights acts of the 1960s were enacted by Congress, the desegregation of America’s public schools was simply ordered by the Warren Court in 1954.

In the ’60s and ’70s, Congress sat indolent as busing for racial balance was imposed on countless school districts by federal judges.

As the Supreme Court, for decades, exploited the establishment clause of the First Amendment to de-Christianize all public schools and public places, Congress did nothing. A triumphant court then moved on to declare abortion and same-sex marriage constitutional rights.

Yet Congress had the latent power, in Article III, Section 2, to restrict the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and every other federal court. But the big stick the founders left for Congress to corral a runaway Supreme Court was never picked up, never used.

High among the reasons Trump was elected was that, for all his flaws and failings, he was seen as a doer, a man who “gets things done.”

And high among the reasons that autocrats are on the rise is that the centrist parties being shoved aside are perceived as having failed the people in their most basic demands — fewer migrants, more secure borders, preservation of national identity, putting their own people and their country own first.

Whatever may be said of the autocrats, be it Trump, Putin or Xi Jinping, they are not talkers but doers. They act.

And they may very well own the future.

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